Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peter Vaughan and The Remains of the Day

I was watching The Remains of the Day (1993) last night and was drawn in by the performance of Peter Vaughan (b. 1923) who plays Anthony Hopkins' elderly father.  I love British actors, and Vaughan is no exception.  There is something about their demeanor that allows them to be completely believable, especially in period roles.

Vaughan now has over 200 titles on IMDb.  Much of his work is in British television, so you may have to look hard for it in the USA.  You can easily find him in many diversified movie roles.  His appearance can change from kindly to menacing in an instant, depending on the requirements.

His early roles were mostly uncredited and he played policemen or porters, just as an extra.  His first movie was The 39 Steps, but it was the 1959 remake.  He was in Village of the Damned (1960) which was a hit horror film starring George Sanders and a bunch of kids with glowing eyes. 

He had to suffer through the 1960s with stars like Vince Edwards (The Victors 1963), but he did press on.  In 1965 he had a bigger part in Die! Die! My Darling! starring Tallulah Bankhead (1902 - 1968).  Vaughan stars in Smokescreen (1966) which sounds like a pretty good, low budget mystery.  He plays an insurance investigator who solves an insurance fraud scheme.  I'll have to look for that one.

In 1967 he co-starred with Frank Sinatra in The Naked Runner.  I don't believe either one of them was naked in it, but it certainly helped his career.  Then, he worked with Vince Edwards again in Hammerhead (1968).  I may have to write about Edwards soon, as it looks like he did something other than "Ben Casey!"

I have to mention that Vaughan was in an episode of "The Avengers" in 1968.  It was one of my favorites.  Let's move on...
Straw Dogs (1971) starring Dustin Hoffman
The Blockhouse (1973) starring Peter Sellers
The MacKintosh Man (1973) starring Paul Newman
Massacre in Rome (1973) starring Richard Burton
Valentino (1977) starring Rudolph Nureyev and Leslie Caron
Time Bandits (1981) a Terry Gilliam film, where he played Winston the Ogre
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) starring Meryl Streep
The Razor's Edge (1984) starring Bill Murray

I think you can see that he was very capable.  He worked with everyone from Richard Burton to Bill Murray.  Now that takes flexibility.

Vaughan worked again with Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, in Brazil (1985).  In 1988 he was in the television movie, "The Bourne Identity" which I would also like to see.  It starred Richard Chamberlain (b. 1934, and another TV doctor), who probably brought in a good performance, considering the limited budget of a TV movie.  I would expect the story to be the star in that one, rather than the action scenes and explosions.

Vaughan's part in The Remains of the Day was spot on.  He played it in a touching way that brought some understanding to his son's role as the butler.  That is the job of a Bit Actor.

In 1996 you can find him in The Crucible starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Rider.  1998 in Les Miserables with Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman.  In 2007 he is in Death at a Funeral, which is on demand in FiOS right now, so I may have to watch it.

Peter Vaughan keeps on working, even well into his 80s.  It is time to take real notice of his contribution to the movies we enjoy so much.  I know that Remains received a nomination for an Oscar for Best Picture (plus seven others), but I wonder how many awards ALL of his works have gathered in total.  It would be a real tribute to compile a full list.

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